TOY STORY 4

Toy Story 4 movie poster
Relegated to the closet of his kid Bonnie (voiced by Madeleine McGraw), Woody (the voice of Tom Hanks) is feeling left out. Hiding in her backpack at school orientation, he sneakily gets her a spork and other materials from the trash to make a craft toy. The result is Forky (the voice of Tony Hale), Bonnie's beloved homemade toy who thinks he's trash and is drawn to garbage cans. Woody suddenly has a purpose in life: convince Forky he's a toy and protect him. But when Bonnie takes the whole gang on her family's road trip, Woody and Forky get separated from the group and must find their way back to the family camper. On this adventurous journey, Woody unexpectedly reunites with his long-lost, and now independent, friend Bo Peep (voiced by Annie Potts) and also makes some new friends.

The ideal series' ending of "Toy Story 3" gets upstaged by
a satisfying and heartfelt charmer. There's a required rescue mission, but a witty screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Stephany Folsom keeps this venerable series from getting stale. Stanton and Folsom are also credited with the original story along with John Lasseter, Rashida Jones, Will McCormack, Josh Cooley, Valerie LaPointe and Martin Hynes. Making an impressive animated feature directorial debut, Josh Cooley (director/writer of the cartoon short "Riley's First Date?") stuffs this delight with laughs and emotion. Equally entertaining for young and old alike, humor only occasionally takes a back seat to serious moments about purpose in life and what can happen to toys. Double-meaning jokes for adults are plentiful - with the perfect cast to deliver the lines. Most of the character voices return from the previous entries. Once again, Tom Hanks is the voice of reason as Woody and Tim Allen is the dimwitted Buzz Lightyear - who hilariously listens to his "inner voice" box to save his cowboy friend. The list of stars providing vocals is enormous - too many to mention here. Most notable among the newcomers are Tony Hale as the trash-obsessed Forky and a terrific Keanu Reeves as Canadian daredevil Duke Caboom with a fear of crashing and now residing in an antiques store. Christina Hendricks brings store resident Gabby Gabby, a defective doll with no voice box, to life. The element of danger: she's targeting Woody's pull-string vocal device for a chance to be a kid's toy. Her henchmen are creepy ventriloquist dummies, reminiscent of "The Twilight Zone". On a lighter note: Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are appealing as Ducky and Bunny, plush carnival prizes with overactive imaginations. For bittersweet nostalgia, the late Don Rickles is heard as Mr. Potato Head - courtesy of archival recordings. Randy Newman returns with familiar music and a couple of new tunes, including "The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy" sung by Chris Stapleton over the closing credits (extra scenes and a creative take on Pixar's logo at the very end are included - so don't leave early). This is a cinematic series rarity where the sequels are equal to or better than the original. "Toy Story 4" is no exception. Toying with us again, Disney/Pixar applies another fresh coat of paint. (4/5 CAMS)

Rated G
Running Time: 100 minutes

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